Why Buy a Handheld Vacuum?
The top performers in our reviews are the Hoover Platinum Collection LiNX, the Gold Award winner; the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II, the Silver Award winner; and the Eureka Easy Clean, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a handheld vacuum to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 handheld vacuums.
Handheld vacuums are your best option for keeping a car clean or quickly picking up small messes around your house. The best handheld vacuums require little space and can mount on the wall or the corner of your trunk when they're not in use. Hand vacuums are a good choice if you have pets that shed, and some are made specifically for that task. Many come with attachments for cleaning hard-to-reach areas, while others have special heads that convert for different tasks. The majority don't need to be plugged in. They come with a battery that you can charge overnight while the vacuum is not in use.
You should keep in mind that a handheld vacuum shouldn't be used for heavy jobs. If you try to clean an entire house with a hand vac, you'll find out quickly how often you need to empty the bin and how long the chore will take. If you want to clean an entire room but don't need the power of a full-sized vacuum, a good alternative is a stick vacuum cleaner. Check out our reviews of the best stick vacuums here. If you want to learn more, take a look at our articles about handheld vacuums.
Handheld Vacuums: How We Tested, What We Found
The two most important components of the best hand vacuums are vacuuming power and portability – that is, how well it performs vacuuming different surfaces and whether or not you can move it around with ease between different locations. A big factor in a vacuum's portability is the performance of its rechargeable battery. We also looked at extra features such as attachments and online support, though not at the expense of cleaning ability and mobility. Beyond this, we examined unique features like swiveling heads, the ability to clean wet surfaces and the capacity of the dustbin.
For our tests, we vacuumed up materials with the consistency you'd expect when cleaning your car or home. We spread a healthy sprinkling of sawdust on several square feet of carpet, hardwood and around a car seat. We then measured how many passes it took to clean up the entire area. For the car seat test, we made sure to spread sawdust in hard-to-reach areas such as cracks between the cushions and under armrests. Our research found that handheld vacs are often used for households with pets, so we embedded pet hair in the carpet and tested the percentage of pet hair the vacuum was able to suck up. Since many handheld vacs are battery-powered, we tested how long the vacuum ran until the battery died.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate products in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experience of the typical consumer. We obtained all handheld vacuums for this review from the manufacturers. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important in Selecting a Handheld Vacuum?
While our test factors should be leading considerations in buying the right handheld vacuum, other features and capabilities should factor into your choice. Here's a rundown of the most important elements, with several key questions you should ask yourself.
Battery Power: Do You Need a Cordless Vacuum?
There are a few things you should consider before buying a handheld vacuum simply based on the fact that it's cordless. Keep in mind that, between uses, you will need to charge the vacuum. Most cordless hand vacs need to be placed on a charger between uses to regain power. This isn't too difficult indoors, but consider whether your car is capable of plugging in the charger or if special resources are needed. Some of the hand vacuums we tested do not have a battery and still require a cord and power source. If the ease of cordless models isn't as important to you, a corded hand vac, in most cases, will be more affordable.
Dustbins & Filters: How Easy Is It to Clean and Empty the Vacuum?
The most common method of emptying your handheld vacuum is a detachable bin that collects dirt and dust, but some vacuums make this an easier task than others. Certain hand vacs release the dust when you push a button, meaning you don't have to get your hands dirty. Others require you to detach the bin by hand, which can get messy if it's not directly over a garbage can. Most do not have bins larger than even an ounce, so they require you to empty them after every use. Other bins have a clear, plastic case so you can tell how full they are. If a vacuum is HEPA-certified, that means it can remove 99.9 percent of allergens from the air. Most handheld vacs are bagless, but a few are not.
Attachments: What Specific Jobs Do You Need Your Vacuum to Do?
Attachments can add a lot of versatility to your handheld vacuum. Since these vacuums are meant to not take up a lot of space, the attachments are more limited and, in most cases, require additional storage. With that in mind, there are models that have versatile heads that convert for different jobs. A nice feature is a long hose that attaches to the vacuum, especially for cleaning around your car. You can plug in the hose and let the vacuum rest on the seat while you move around. At most, you should expect a crevice tool. This attachment is helpful when you use the hand vac in your vehicle, considering all the different nooks and crannies you have to deal with.
Handheld Vacuums: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The Hoover Platinum Collection LiNX, the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II and the Eureka Easy Clean stood out from the other hand vacuums we tested. The lightweight, quiet Hoover has a remarkable battery that requires little charging time and has a long running life. The Shark comes with versatile tools, which help with cleaning car seats, and extreme suction. The Eureka was our best overall performer in the cleaning tests, but it lost points because it's not a cordless model.
One thing we found surprising about the handheld vacuums we tested is that those marketed directly to pet owners ended up, on average, performing poorly in our pet hair tests. You should keep this in mind when you shop for a vacuum in any category: If the name of the vacuum references pet hair or dander cleanup, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be your best choice for that task.
Whether you need a handheld vacuum for cleaning your car or spot-cleaning in a busy household, hand vacs are the perfect solution for quick, effective cleansing. They are more portable and generally quieter than stick vacs. At the very least, they'll save you a few quarters whenever you take a trip to the car wash.